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Acting stands out in ‘Comedy of Errors’

7/11/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

From left, Holly Humes, Ernie Gonzalez and Tess Burgler share a scene in the Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s production of “The Comedy of Errors.”
Photo courtesy of the Ohio Shakespeare Festival
WEST AKRON — Mistaken identity has often been the content of comedy. However, in William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” which is being staged by the Ohio Shakespeare Festival through July 21 at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, the playwright, director and cast lead the audience on a path strewn with mistaken identities, slapstick, wordplay and errors.

Shakespeare took many of the characters from the classic Roman comedies, but he turns the world upside. The courtesan gives her customer a ring in payment. The shrewish wife fights with her husband and his manservant. The stage seems littered with doddering old men. 

The basic plot involves identical twin boys born to wealth. The parents of the boys buy two slaves, identical twins of the same age to grow up with their sons and to be their man servants. The family is divided by a storm and one parent, one child and one child servant are cast ashore on different islands. When the children are adults, they arrive in the same town at the same time.

The problems are multiplied because the twin brothers have the same name — Antipholus of Ephesus (Bernard Bygott) and Antipholus of Syracuse (Ryan Zarecki). Their identical twin servants are Dromio of Ephesus (Benjamin Fortin) and Dromio of Syracuse (Geoff Knox).

Chaos and comedy reign supreme. 

Director Terry Burgler keeps the comedy moving fast and furious. He leads the cast in laugh-provoking physical comedy. Because Shakespeare wrote for an all-male cast, his female characters were expected to play physical comedy. The women in this cast hold their own in the physical comedy arena.

Bygott is a first-rate actor. He seems to be perfect for the romantic lead, but then he reveals his strong abilities for physical comedy. Bygott’s performance is worth the price of admission.

Antipholus of Ephesus’ man servant played by Fortin is a wonder to behold as he screws his rubber-like face into configurations designed to evoke plenty of laughter from the audience.

Lara Knox is too pretty to be the shrewish wife. But, she has enough comedic abilities to get the laughs and make us think of Lucille Ball.

Tess Burgler, as Luciana, the mild-mannered sister of Adriana, balances Knox and keeps the romantic interests near the front of this production. We have to ask, which of the twins is pursuing Luciana and which is married to Adriana?

We see these two characters more fully drawn in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

“The Comedy of Errors” starts at 8 p.m. However, you need to be in your seat by 7:30 p.m. for the “Greenshow,” in which the cast sings and dances songs from the Elizabethan period. This show is naughty and nice and a guaranteed good time.

This is a solid production of “The Comedy of Errors.” Unfortunately, this production doesn’t run during the school year. This production would be a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare for children or the uninitiated.

For tickets, visit the OSF website at www.ohioshakespeare.com or call the box office at 330-673-8761.


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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